Kaden Hopkins suffers misfortune on hills of the Basque Country
Kaden Hopkins endured a difficult outing in the 87th Santa Cruz Cycling Classic, as incidents involving other riders ultimately proved decisive in dictating his own race.
After more than a year absence because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the prestigious event, known as the “monument of amateur cycling” and “the great test”, returned with 25 teams, consisting of seven riders each, taking on the challenging 146-kilometre course in Legazpi, in the Basque Country, northern Spain.
Hopkins, competing as part of Equipo Essax, got off to a steady start, staying well positioned within the front bunch for the first two hours of demanding climbs.
However, soon after disaster struck as on one of the climbs, a marshal motorbike collided with one of the competitors, resulting in the bike and rider being tipped over.
While the rider proved relatively unscathed, the incident halted the peloton in its tracks, including Hopkins. After a stoppage of about 30 seconds, the 21-year-old was faced with the task of having to chase down the pack and reduce the enforced deficit.
Despite managing to reel in the group, the Bermudian rider’s endeavours took their toll as another excruciating climb, pushed on by the bigger teams at the front of the pack, ended Hopkins’s pursuit and, ultimately, his race.
“Overall, it was a really unlucky race,” Hopkins said. “I knew it was going to be a hard day because races referred to as ”monuments“ in the pro category are the hardest one-day races.
“The course was very demanding in terms of climbing, but for the first two hours I felt very strong and was well placed near the front of the bunch.
“However, after the marshal motorbike hit one of the riders, it blocked the right side of the road stopping half the peloton, including myself. Half the race was out after that, but I managed to get around the mess and chase back in.
“I got back in but when the big teams lit the pace up on the next climb, I just could not follow it.”
While Hopkins acknowledges uncontrollable factors hampered his efforts, he also concedes that the challenging climbing nature of the race — which was won by Unai Iribar, of Laboral Kutxa — was always going to prove a tough test for a rider more accustomed to the speed and endurance of time-trialling and flatter road racing.
“Obviously, I suffered some bad luck but in all honesty I know the day would’ve been a very big test for me anyway,” added Hopkins, who continues to adjust to life in Spain and the challenge of riding at a higher level in Europe.
He will have no time to dwell on the misfortune of the previous race, with attention now turning to getting back into action in the Vinalopo Almansa Interclub Test, a one-off race consisting of a 86.5km course in the town of Almansa in the province of Albacete.
“I have another race coming up this weekend that I am definitely more optimistic about,” he said.